Oconee County Commissioners decided Tuesday night to purchase 7.63 acres just outside of the northern boundaries of Watkinsville for a future administrative building.
The planned new facility will house the non-judicial government functions currently located in the Oconee County Courthouse in downtown Watkinsville and at the Oconee County Annex on Greensboro Highway on the south of Watkinsville.
The vacant land is owned by Jacobs Properties LLLP of North Augusta, S.C., and assessed at $227,517, according to county tax records.
The Board of Commissioners, at the end of an executive session on Tuesday night, decided to pay $650,000 for the property. The money will come from the unspent portions of the 2004 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
The county says it has no timetable for construction of the building or movement of the county functions to the new location.
History Of Project
The Board of Commissioners has struggled for years to find a solution to its space needs, and money in the 2004 SPLOST had been designated for county facilities.
|Site Plan For New Administrative Building|
The current Courthouse now is largely dominated by the county’s judicial functions and is being expanded at present to accommodate both future judicial space demands and security needs.
Access to the administrative offices in the Courthouse has been restricted because of those security needs. The front door to the Courthouse is blocked for that purpose.
Similarly, offices in the Government Annex on Greensboro Road, where the Water Resources Department, Planning and Code Enforcement Department, and Public Works Department are located, are cramped.
The county also uses other buildings surrounding the Courthouse for administrative activities, including the for the Board of Elections and Registration Office.
Commission members have not been able to agree in the past on how to solve the space problem.
Discussion of land acquisition normally takes place in executive session, and the Board has held many such closed meetings in recent months with land acquisition a listed topic.
The Board went into executive session following its regular agenda-setting meeting on Tuesday and emerged to make the decision on the purchase of the 7.63 acre tract.
Diane Baggett, communications manager for the county, sent out a news release late Tuesday evening announcing the decision.
“Consolidation of these departments and offices in one location will provide for increased efficiency and provide true one-stop shopping for customers,” Baggett said in that news release.
“The site, located across from Fire Station 1, enjoys multiple road frontages that will be easily accessible by residents in all areas of the county,” the news release continued.
The decision means the Courthouse remains in the county seat of Watkinsville, as is required, but the county’s nonjudicial administrative functions will be outside Watkinsville’s current city limits.
Watkinsville has extended its city limits to include Fire Station 1 and the Calls Creek Water Reclamation Facility, both north of the circular border of the city and near the new administrative facility property. Both properties are owned by the county.
According to county tax records, the 7.63-acre home of the future administrative building was transferred from Sara D. Jacobs to Jacobs Properties LLLP at no cost on Feb. 23, 2001.
It contains no buildings, though the site plan released by the county shows two foundations for barns.
The land is wooded and is partially covered by a conservation use tax reduction for timberland, according to the county’s tax records.
Jacobs Properties LLLP also owns 22.5 acres across U.S. 441 from the site being purchased by the county and 7.1 acres north of the land to be purchased and between U.S. 441 and Summit Grove Drive.
I could not find Jacobs Properties LLLP in the corporate database of the Secretary of State of South Carolina.
I did not attend the Tuesday meeting of the Board of Commissioners because of another commitment.
Sarah Bell and Penny Mills planned to attend and record the meeting for me.
I learned of the decision on the purchase of the property following the executive session from the news release sent out by Baggett.
I will upload the full video of the meeting, including of the decision following the executive session if it is available, when I receive it from Bell and Mills.